KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors
Honda designed the Element to appeal to young male buyers. The original concept, in fact, was touted as a "rolling dorm room," designed to appeal to those with active lifestyles and a limited budget. Much to everyone's surprise, the Element not only hit its target audience, it picked up a number of unexpected buyers ranging from single moms to retired couples and everyone in between. The 2008 Honda Element is attractive to these folks for a number of reasons. It's economically-sized yet large-cargo friendly, and the rear seats can be folded flat to create a two-person bed. The Element also gets good gas mileage, even when equipped with the optional four-wheel-drive system.
You'll Like This Car If...
If you love traveling the great outdoors and need a smart, affordable vehicle to transport you and your many pieces of gear without hassle, the 2008 Honda Element will work for you.
You May Not Like This Car If...
New-age styling may not appeal to everyone. Also, there is no V6 option and the Element's four-wheel-drive system is not designed for serious off-road adventuring.
What's New for 2008
No major changes for 2008.
The Element's 2.4-liter engine is very smooth for a four-cylinder and quite strong for its size, with a good deal of torque for pulling and passing. The Element will easily cruise at 75 mph, and even accelerate up a highway grade in fifth gear. The Element's ride and handling characteristics are much more akin to an Accord sedan than a truck-based SUV. Once we adjusted to the long dash and squared-off hood, we found it easy to dart in and out of traffic and take sweeping curves and sharp turns with confidence. The steering and brakes operate with precision and predictable response, returning excellent feedback under all driving conditions.
Fold Flat Seats
The Element's fold-flat seats can be converted into a bed by removing the headrests and laying the seats flat and flush.
Waterproof seating materials and a urethane-coated utility floor give the Element a durable, easy-to-clean interior.
From the dash-mounted shift lever to the fold-flat rear seats that can be flipped up and secured to the sides, the Element's interior is unlike anything else on the road. When the rear seats are flipped up on their sides, there's a cargo area large enough to place two upright-standing mountain bikes. The front seats feature integrated safety belts and are surprisingly comfortable. They are made of a durable, washable fabric that breathes nicely, a benefit on hot days. On LX and EX trims, the floor is covered in rubber-like urethane, not carpet, so it can be cleaned up easily. The SC model features carpeting in the passenger cabin, but not in the cargo bay.
Easily recognizable at any distance, the Element's boxy greenhouse, two-tone body panels and forward-opening rear doors are only some of its unique styling features. The unpainted plastic body panels of the LX trim level cleverly and conveniently avoid the issue of scratching the surface during such activities as loading bikes or skis onto the roof rack, or leaning equipment against the fenders. EX and SC models feature body-colored panels. The lack of a center pillar allows for large and bulky items to be loaded through the side doors, but the design precludes rear-seat occupants from exiting until the front doors are first opened.
Notable Standard Equipment
The Element features a five-speed manual transmission, four-wheel disc brakes, five cup holders, air conditioning, AM/FM stereo with CD, rear defroster, rear privacy glass, dual power side mirrors, cruise control, tilt wheel, rear wiper/washer, power windows, steel wheels, side-curtain airbags, front side-impact airbags and Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA). The EX trim adds alloy wheels and a 270-watt, seven-speaker sound system with CD/MP3 capability and an auxiliary input jack.
Notable Optional Equipment
Options include Real Time four-wheel drive and a five-speed automatic transmission. Ordering the SC package adds 18-inch alloy wheels, a lowered sport suspension, piano-black interior trim, custom cloth seats, carpeting, center console, projector-beam halogen headlamps, a custom grille and custom-painted bumpers.
Under the Hood
Honda employs the excellent 2.4-liter in-line four-cylinder engine from the CR-V to serve duty in the Element. This is a strong four-cylinder engine with a surprising amount of low-end torque that translates into quick acceleration across intersections and capable passing power on the highway. Fuel mileage is comparable to most small SUV's in this class and, considering the Element's boxy shape, roomy interior and large frame, that's a commendable achievement.
2.4-liter in-line 4
166 horsepower @ 5800 rpm
161 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/23 (FWD, manual), 20/25 (FWD, automatic), 18/23 (4WD, manual), 19/24 (4WD, automatic)
Like all Honda products, the Element offers few options. The front-wheel-drive LX has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting around $20,000, while the four-wheel-drive model starts closer to $21,000. EX pricing ranges from about $21,500 to $24,000, with the SC trim ranging from around $23,500 to a high of $25,000. With any trim level, the automatic transmission adds about $800 to the price. A look at the Fair Purchase Price page shows the typical transaction price paid for the Element in your area, so be sure to check it out before you begin negotiating. The Element is expected to hold excellent residual and resale values, on par with the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, and better than the Jeep Liberty, Ford Escape and Nissan Xterra.